Author's Chapter Notes:
Here we go again! Please review.

Joni walked her usual route. The night air was getting crisp, and she'd left home without her gloves. Her fingers were turning pink from the cold. Not even blowing on them seemed to take the chill out. Even though her legs were moving at a brisk pace in a desperate effort to get her to the safety of her warm bed, the chill of the November frost had already seeped onto her bones. There was no escaping it.

It was so cold out here that even her breath was freezing into an ice cloud and shattering into a thousand fragments on the air.

Maybe what was chilling her wasn't the weather at all. Maybe she just missed her Daddy. Little girls did that sometimes, didn't they? They sometimes missed their Daddies, even when the little girls weren't so little anymore.

Joni missed her Daddy, very much. It had been two years since he'd gone away, and it still hurt her heart like it had happened yesterday. For some reason she couldn't say the word, "death" when it came to describing what happened to him. She could think it just fine. She just couldn't say it. So, for her, he had just, "gone away." He wasn't dead. Death just seemed so, permanent. That just couldn't happen to her Daddy. Not again.

Joni missed her Daddy so much. But the thing she missed most about him was the first thing that she knew was his. As a baby, she had been soothed to sleep by the gentle rolling thunder that his voice had been for her. And now that it was silent again, like it had been after her Mom died, isn't it funny how a word she couldn't even utter in relation to her Daddy just seemed to roll off like water when it came to her Mom, she really did miss it.

The first thing Joni ever had a conscious memory of was her Daddy's voice. He would sing her to sleep at night. Usually with old songs no one heard anymore. Not even on the classics band on the radio. She loved his voice. It was made up of rumble and softness and purring, like a big cat. But, it could be loud as a thunderclap when her Daddy needed to protect her or her Mom.

Her Mom, she was small and delicate, like her Daddy was. But she was strong too. She was what they used to call a Slayer; at least that's what her Daddy said she was.

But that was before the sickness came and took her. It took all the Slayers. One by one, until none were left but her. One Slayer. Just like in the beginning.

When Mom left, Daddy's rumble got quiet, too quiet. And he didn't sing anymore. Not even for her. Joni wondered if her Daddy blamed her for her Mom's death. After all, Mom got sick and she hadn't. The sickness hadn't even touched her. Somewhere deep down, Joni blamed herself for her Mom's death, so why shouldn't her Daddy do the same?

Joni remembered one conversation very well. Brian McCoy had called her a stupid name, because of her birthmark. She'd come home crying to her Daddy. She was twelve at the time, and her Daddy did what all good Daddies do when their daughters cry. He threatened to beat him up. Then, they sat down, he dried her tears, and they started talking about things that really mattered:

"So," he grinned, "how bloody do you want him? Schoolhouse tussle, or British football enthusiast?"

Joni stared at him, wide eyed, "But Daddy you can't!"

"Oh, but I can, Dove," he assured her, "Brian McCoy hurts my little girl, you bet I'm going to set him to rights about it! Especially when he hurts my girl over something that's none of her doing," he smiled, seeing that the threats of violence, even ones he had no intention of carrying out, had had their desired effect. She'd stopped crying, "And it's fun too."


"All right," he relented, "For you, I'll let him go. But, just this once, if there's a next time, all bets are off. What was it he said to you that upset you like this?"

"He made fun of my freckles," she pouted.

He'd tilted his head the way he always did when he knew she wasn't telling him everything, "Not just your freckles. Am I right, Dove?" he indicated his cheek, mirroring where her birthmark was, "This was about your mark, wasn't it?"


His voice took on a stern tone. A tone he rarely used with her, "Jonina Dustin," he said, taking her by the hand out to the hall mirror, "I want to show you something."

"No Daddy. I don't want to look." She hated mirrors, and he knew this. It wasn't because she thought herself homely. She thought she was rather pretty, even if she didn't look like the ones she called her Mom and Daddy. They were the ones who'd raised her, ever since her parents had been killed by a vampire when she was three months old; they were her Mom and Dad, in every way that really mattered. No, there was another reason she hated mirrors. She hated them because she couldn't see her Daddy when she looked into one. She could see herself, but not him. And, that made her sad.

"I know you don't want to look," Spike said as he turned her to face the mirror, "but humor your old Dad, all right? Now, what do you see?"

She stomped her foot, "Me, with a big purple splotch on my face," she said petulantly.

Spike shook his head, a bit amused at how much like her she really was, "So much like your Mother. What else do you see?"

Her eyes welled up with tears, "I know what I don't see," she choked, "You. I don't see Mom, either, and I think that's so unfair!" she turned to face him, "Do you hate me, Daddy?"

Spike was shocked, "Hate you? Why would I do that, Dove?"

"For taking Mom away."

"That wasn't your fault! Never even think that." His brows furrowed and he held her tightly, "Do you understand me? I could never hate you," he shook his head again and whispered, "I could never hate you. Not you."

"But he hates me."

He could tell by the look in her eyes that they weren't talking about a schoolyard infatuation. Somehow her little girl logic had brought up something that was hurtful to her, and distasteful to him, "Now we're talking on a subject you shouldn't be worrying your pretty ringlets over. He's not worth the breath it takes to worry over. He's not even worth mine. So no talk of that, now."

That was when she was twelve. She was seventeen now. And, she was an orphan again. She hated him for that. For two years that was all she had in her. It was all she knew.

She knelt down in front of his marker, cleared the dry leaves away from the stone, and touched the letters lovingly, "Daddy, it's me. It's your 'Little Dove.' I'm sorry I haven't been by for a visit lately. But I've been busy. I thought I'd say goodnight to you before I head home. You'd be upset with me. I went out without my gloves again." She could almost hear the wind bellowing his response, "I know, I know. I'd forget my head if it wasn't on my neck. I promise, it won't happen again. And I also promise that somehow, some way, Angelus is going to pay for what he did to you and Mom."

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